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Reviewed by Robert Rose for Readers' Favorite
Since 9/11 the fears of Muslims attacking Americans provoked the creation of the PATRIOT ACT. The very name meant that to disagree with it made you un-American. This has morphed into the most egregious violations of our Constitutional rights since Joseph McCarthy’s efforts to destroy them to save us from Communism. It has given bureaucrats and law enforcement the unlicensed rights to make mockery of our rights, while convincing us that “It’s for your own good.” Didn’t we learn what that meant with our parents and schools? Part of this is the public’s (as well as leadership’s) woeful ignorance of the Koran and the real beliefs and behaviors of most Muslims.
Ali Parsi took his UCLA doctoral dissertation and has made it into a book. It is scrupulously researched and demonstrates his scholarship. However, I don’t see it becoming a best seller, which is sad because reading (and understanding) it could allay many of our unreasonable fears of those who profess to follow Islam. It could also help to see the basis of how it is used (as some Jewish and Christian believers do with their religious books) to justify passages that do encourage terrible things to be done in the name of God or Allah. In the hands of fanatics the good in their books is ignored while the bad is glorified and used destructively.
Equally important is that his goal to understand causation in history takes us beyond the simplistic great man or great events theories. Ali divides causes into two main categories of deterministic and indeterministic. Each of these is subdivided into individual, social, natural, and divine causes. He develops each by giving many very specific examples based on the writings of Arab and Muslim historians. The names may be difficult to remember, but the concepts become clearer as the examples fit with the philosophy in the beginning of the book and his efforts to demonstrate each cause.
Despite that it reads like a doctoral dissertation he gets the reader thinking about the validity and reliability of historical sources from any era, religion, or country. That said, it reminds us that the Islamic conquests of much of the world were similar to what happened under the Romans as the Muslims brought back much of the best from the Greeks and Romans. Many of the conquerors, like the Romans, administered justice to the conquered as they did fairly with their own people.
In his explanations of causation we should understand that there are many interpretations of any historical work. Understanding their various causes may help us to better accept our differences and be prepared to deal forcefully with people from any religion who dominate or destroy others as well as to cooperate with those who wish to live in peace.